As recently as a generation ago, it was understood that if you wanted to build a career focused on making a positive impact on your community, you likely needed to find a position in the nonprofit or government sector.
Today’s business community pushes the boundaries of this binary model. One can find businesses, business leaders, and employees across every sector with a deep sense of purpose, doing good through and with their companies and brands. They do so because it is the right thing to do and because it’s smart business.
And the data backs this up A Cone Communications study found that 64% of Millennials wouldn’t take a job unless the company has a strong Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) effort. By 2025, Millennials will make up 75% of the workforce.
And it isn’t just where people work – it’s how people work. A 2020 Harvard Business Review article found that purpose-driven companies make more money, have more engaged employees, more loyal customers, and are better at transformational change. The NYSE tells the same story: Value-driven companies outperform their counterparts in stock price by a factor of 12.
So too, a consumer’s purchasing power is increasingly directed to the companies they believe in. A recent Unilever Consumer Study found that there is an estimated $1.3 trillion market opportunity for brands with significant and clear sustainability credentials. The majority of consumers agree, preferring brands that are committed to using good quality ingredients (76%), treat employees well (65%), and align with that consumer’s ethical values (62%).
But most importantly – corporate good is on the rise because real people with real passion (and real internal power) want it to be so. These leaders aren’t in it for the buzz – they’re in it for the results.
Social Impact is in. This work is quickly evolving from a “nice to have” to a “need to have.” So what does this mean for today’s nonprofit professionals? You’ve got likeminded friends at a company near you. There are a lot of people in the corporate world who want to make their communities better and have the time, resources, and energy to make it happen. Sometimes corporate social impact goals are accomplished through brands, products, supply chain updates, communication strategies, and employee engagement efforts. Other times, they need nonprofit partners to really move the needle on a specific issue or make a difference in community.
The best public-private partnerships all boil down to one thing: Fit. Here’s how to meet your match. 🤜🤛
Be very clear about your organization’s theory of change. What is your purpose? What levers are you uniquely suited to pull that advance your work? What levers might be better pulled by a corporate partner? You and your colleagues can do a tremendous amount of important work, but an aligned industry partner could bring unique value to the table as everyone builds toward a common goal. This is Social Impact.
Here are a few real-world examples ✨
Scale: In 2017, Kroger launched its Zero Hunger | Zero Waste commitment to address hunger and eliminate waste across the company by 2025. Kroger partners with national organizations like ReFed to support the national database working to end food loss and waste across the U.S. food system through this program. Small local organizations like food banks, mobile pantries, and healthy student meal programs. The program has rescued hundreds of millions of pounds of food that went to individuals in need to date.
Logistics: In 2018, International Medical Corps collaborated with FedEx to transform its disaster response protocol. Together, they redesigned IMC’s emergency field hospital to create rapidly deployable medical assets and health facilities that FedEx stores at its World Hub in Memphis. When disaster strikes, FedEx leverages its global fleet and logistics capability to deliver the hospital nearly anywhere in the world. This partnership has enabled millions of people to receive life-saving services, including hygiene kits, medical shelters, protective equipment, and screenings.
Knowhow: In 2019, FoodCorps, a national nonprofit working to bring healthier food options to children across the US, teamed up with Sweetgreen, a healthy fast-casual restaurant chain. Together, they announced a strategic partnership to reimagine the school cafeteria experience. Through the initiative, Sweetgreen pledged funds (over $1 million), R+D, products, and industry know-how, and FoodCorp is paving the way with research, relationships, and a roadmap for better school food programs.
Audience: In 2020, the National Domestic Violence Hotline partnered with Bumble, the feminist dating app, on a multi-pronged partnership. Not only is the app offering financial support for the nonprofit, but it’s also taking the Hotline’s expertise to its community of over 40 million users, spreading awareness, and the Hotline’s resources for healthier relationships online and IRL.
Local: Rosebud Coffee in Southern California partners with a number of local NGOs, providing resources, meaningful job training, and mentorship to local homeless and at-risk youth. The cafe also partners with a socially-minded roaster, Wild Goose, to donate 10 pounds of food for every pound of beans sold.
Next steps 📝
Once you identify your potential partners, don’t be shy. Ask them to connect, and help them understand how – together – you can make an outsized impact on a matter of joint importance. If they need a little help seeing the vision, they can always check out Ethos Giving’s Good Brief – our free resource helps companies explore how their business or brand can make a unique and important impact.
Good luck – we’re all counting on you.
Givebutter made a $100 donation to Emily's campaign of choice, Barnsdall Olive Grove Initiative, for her guest blog.
Emily Kane Miller is the Founder and CEO of Ethos Giving, a philanthropic services firm that supports companies who are committed to moving the needle with their philanthropy.